Your Name: Anime Glitz

*** (out of 4)

Last August, while Suicide Squad, Sausage Party, and Don’t Breathe were perched atop the North American box office, a different sort of movie fever was taking ahold of Japan. Your Name, an anime about a boy named Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki) and a girl named Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) who find themselves suddenly “switching” bodies, opened to become the most financially successful anime film of all time, beating out established classics like Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. Only this past weekend has it finally made it across the Pacific to North American theaters, and its arrival has been met with fervent acclaim from American reviewers: several of them have gone so far as to declare that director Makoto Shinkai has a claim to being “the next” Hayao Miyazaki.

When you consider just how much there is to take in on the movie’s surface, it’s not hard to see why people are so ecstatic. Continue reading

The Red Turtle: The Primordial Wonders of Nature

*** ½ (out of 4)

Back in the 1700s, the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau got a lot of mileage out of writing paeans to nature. In fact, in one of his most famous works, the Discourse on Inequality, he devotes thousands of words to a glowing and detailed description of humans in a primitive state of being. “To go naked, to be without habitation, and to be deprived of all the useless things we believe so necessary,” he declares at one point, “is…not such a great misfortune…nor…is it such a great obstacle to…preservation.” Conveniently, he never gets around to discussing the diseases and environmental disasters nature can easily throw on the unprepared — but reading him, you do start to question whether modern-day civilization is all it’s cracked up to be.

Throughout its short running time, Michaël Dudok de Wit’s new animated silent film The Red Turtle feels like it came straight out of one of Rousseau’s daydreams. Continue reading